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Council approves zoning changes

By Staff, 06/15/21 10:24 AM

PRESCOTT – Prescott’s City Council met in special session Monday night to discuss rezoning the city.

The meeting lasted two-and-a-half hours and in the end, the main decision made was to allow manufactured housing to be placed anywhere in the city limits with two exceptions – the Sherwood and Ridgewood Additions. The primary reason for not allowing manufactured housing in the Ridgewood Addition is because it’s allegedly the only area in town where new housing could be built and expand.

This was the main sticking point as some members of the council questioned the legality of excluding manufactured homes in these areas and if the practice wasn’t discriminatory. They were assured this was perfectly legal. Councilman Ivory Curry said he had no problem with leaving the zoning for those additions as they were, repeating this throughout the meeting.

James Walden, who works on planning and zoning in Conway, was on hand to discuss zoning issues with the council. He pointed out rezoning needs to be consistent with land use in an area, and land use can be updated with planning and zoning simultaneously, but the idea is to make sure the land is being used for the most common purpose in an area, such as residential, commercial or industrial.

He pointed out by getting rid of the zoning for manufactured homes, they would be allowed to be placed pretty much anywhere – except Sherwood and Ridgewood – adding there could be some restrictions placed on them, such as requiring them to be placed on a concrete slab.

Walden said unless otherwise designated, any property annexed into the city would automatically be zoned R1 for residential housing. However, with the decision made by the council, there are now zones for R1, low density residential, R2, medium density residential, R3, apartment residential and R1MH for manufactured homes. There is a difference between manufactured homes and mobile homes. First, manufactured homes tend to be more permanent and, the major distinction, they were build after 1976.

The council went through the uses for each zone, what could be put there, what is and isn’t allowed and what is forbidden, along with where the information can be found in the city’s documents for those who are looking to build or locate a manufactured home. They were told about lot size, yard and fence height requirements, how far a structure must be from the street, both sides and the rear of the property.

There was little discussion concerning the commercial districts, of which there are three: C1, downtown commercial; C2, general commercial; and B1, a buffer district which serves as a buffer between residential and commercial zones. They were also told about the Industrial zones, I1, and the requirements for it, primarily how and where potentially hazardous materials should be stored.

The discussion ventured into agricultural districts, which also detail how land can be used, but are basically areas where people can have gardens for their own use.

When it came to the Board of Adjustment,  Walden pointed out, this board is more  of a judicial group than the zoning commission, which is basically an administrative panel. This board hears appeals from decisions made by the zoning commission, requests for variances, use of conditions for variances, changes to nonconforming uses of land and structures and a chance in use or occupancy of a nonconforming use.

The Board of Adjustment only meets when necessary, unlike the zoning commission that must meet regularly. It also has to keep public records of all meetings and provide notice of when it will be meeting. Meeting times  and dates must be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the city at least once seven days prior to the meeting.

Walden pointed out the city needs to be careful when dealing with subdivisions to make sure it doesn’t get stuck with the wrong end of a problem. He told the council of how Conway approved a subdivision and less than a year after it was built, the city’s garbage trucks had destroyed the streets with the city being responsible for repairing them because it gave approval without properly checking to make sure the roads were up to code.

“Subdivisions don’t just pop up,” he said. “You need a professional engineer to help with subdivisions.” Walden continued, saying the cost of the planning and developing of a subdivision is the responsibility of the landowner, and plans must be drawn up showing how the property will be divided, where the streets will be, where the utilities will be, the types of streets, whether there will be curb and gutter, etc.

The city’s responsibility, he added, is making sure everything done in the subdivision is up to code before signing off and approving anything.

There was discussion how someone is wanting to develop a subdivision in the New Town area behind Kizer Field for veterans. The subdivision would be for manufactured homes only. Walden was asked if this constituted a subdivision and said it did. He added all the rules and regulations of a subdivision will apply and must be followed accordingly. Curry voiced his concerns about the sewer system in the area, saying it’s problematic and might not be able to handle the extra stress of more use.

The meeting ended with Walden suggesting the city hold a public meeting on zoning and establishing a planning and zoning commission. The council agreed and a public hearing for the zoning regulations will be held at a later date.

However, a public hearing will be held Monday, June 21, at 6:30 p.m. prior to the regular council meeting to deal with the location of a proposed cell phone tower in the community.